Women suffer emotionally, physically and spiritually after an abortion
By claudia mathis / sun staff writer
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to make abortion legal in 1973, there have been many studies into the aftereffects of abortion. The results show a poignant picture of physical and psychological damage among millions of women who have undergone abortions.
Dr. David Reardon, internationally known author, speaker and researcher on post-abortion issues, founded and directs the Elliot Institute in Springfield, Ill. Reardon began researching abortion’s impact on women in 1983 and found that abortion is much more devastating for women than previously realized.
According to his website, national statistics show that 10 percent of women undergoing induced abortion suffer from immediate complications, of which one-fifth (2 percent) were considered major. Minor complications include minor infections, bleeding, fevers, chronic abdominal pain, gastro-intestinal disturbances, vomiting, and Rh sensitization. The nine most common major complications are infection, excessive bleeding, embolism, ripping or perforation of the uterus, anesthesia complications, convulsions, hemorrhage, cervical injury and endotoxic shock.
In a study of 1,182 abortions performed under closely regulated hospital conditions, 27 percent of the patients acquired post-abortion infection lasting three days or longer.
While the immediate complications of abortion are usually treatable, these complications frequently lead to long-term reproductive damage of a much more serious nature.
For example, sterility is one possible outcome of abortion-related infections. Researchers have reported that three to five percent of women are left inadvertently sterile as a result of the operation’s latent morbidity. The risk of sterility is even greater for women with a venereal disease.
In addition to the risk of sterility, women who acquire post-abortion infections are five to eight times more likely to experience ectopic pregnancies.
Cervical damage is another leading cause of long-term complications following abortion. The damage to the cervix during abortion frequently causes a permanent weakening of the cervix. This weakening may result in an “incompetent cervix” which, unable to carry the weight of a later wanted pregnancy, opens prematurely, resulting in miscarriage or premature birth. According to one study, symptoms related to cervical incompetence were found among 75 percent of women who underwent forced dilation for abortion.
Cervical damage from induced abortions increases the risks of miscarriage, premature birth and complications of labor during later pregnancies by 300-500 percent. The reproductive risks of abortion are especially acute for women who abort their first pregnancies. A major study of first pregnancy abortions found that 48 percent of women experienced abortion-related complications in later pregnancies.
Finally, since these pregnancy problems pose a threat to the health of the mothers, women who have had abortions face a 58 percent greater risk of dying during a later pregnancy.
As reported in the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change Research Bulletin, women who have abortions have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Abortion increases the risk through multiple mechanisms. The effect of pregnancy hormones on the breast is different at different times during the pregnancy. During the first two trimesters in the presence of rapidly rising levels of estrogen, the breast merely enlarges by increasing the numbers of Type 1 and 2 cancer vulnerable lobules. This is why premature deliveries increase breast cancer risk. When the pregnancy is terminated at premature delivery, the breast has not matured into mostly Type 3 lobules resistant to cancer, and is now different from the pre-pregnancy state. There are now more Type 1 lobules in the breast and more places for breast cancer to start. The woman has a higher risk of subsequent premature deliveries, which then increase her risk further.
Researchers who have investigated the psychological effects of abortion report that there is only one positive emotion among the reactions to abortion — relief. Temporary feelings of relief are frequently followed by a period psychiatrists identify as emotional “paralysis” or post-abortion “numbness.” These women are unable to express or even feel their own emotions.
A study in New Zealand that tracked approximately 500 women from birth to 25 years of age confirmed that young women who have abortions subsequently experience elevated rates of suicidal behaviors, depression, substance abuse, anxiety and other mental problems.
Dr. Leonard Marrota, medical director of obstetrical services at Crouse Hospital and medical director at New Hope Family Services in Syracuse, agrees with the findings. “As a physician practicing for many years in the area, I can attest that I have dealt with these complications many times,” said Marrota. “In my practice, I can attest to the fact that post-abortion syndrome does exist. Many women do not come to terms with their elective terminations until later in life when they are in the process of a planned pregnancy.”
The Catholic Church recognizes that women experience deep unresolved conflicts with abortion, and for Catholics, the pain of abortion is intensified by a sense of alienation from both God and church. Project Rachel, the church’s post-abortion healing ministry, responds to that estrangement by fostering reconciliation and spiritual healing. New Hope Family Services, a Christian ministry based in Syracuse, also offers post-abortion counseling to those wounded by abortion.
Pope John Paul II reached out lovingly and compassionately to women who have had an abortion in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life. While condemning abortion as “an unspeakable crime,” he acknowledges “the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother.”